It's funny, in an early blog post I wrote on the internal blogs at BMC I said that I did not see how wikis would be used successfully for technical publications. I have since changed my once low opinion of wikis but I still see them supplementing other documentation, not substituting completely for technical documentation. I'd welcome discussion about wiki as standalone or supplemental end-user documentation. What do you think? Should the merits of wiki for certain products win out as the exact right documentation for that particular product especially one either related to an Agile methodology or social media? Or are wikis relegated to an upgrade to the customer support forum with a kludgy way of entering the information and no good method for outputting an information deliverable worth reading?
Lately I've had the opportunity to delve into SharePoint 2007, exploring its wiki, blog, and RSS functionality in depth. I'm convinced that SharePoint 2007 is the tool that's going to change the way enterprises view wikis. Right now wikis are mostly web tools popular among open source projects where remotely located project members contribute to the documentation. SharePoint 2007 provides the same wiki functionality wrapped into the secure SharePoint tool that corporations love.
I'm not an expert on wikis, but so far this is what I've noticed using the SharePoint 2007 wiki:
I see several challenges that wikis pose:
Unique to the SharePoint wikis is the ability to create additional columns/fields for each wiki page. For example, you can create an additional column called Category and force the user to select one of a dozen categories from a drop-down box. You can also add a field that forces the reader to answer yes or no to the question, "Does this page need more work?"
You can then create custom views that sort the wiki pages by the custom columns you created. This ability to add your own custom metadata to wiki pages, and then sort by those metadata fields, provides a lot of flexiblity and power. It alleviates some of the strained organizational limitations wikis have, and allows you to provide information to users in a variety of navigational assortments.
Wikis are notorious for being scattered mazes of chaos. But if you embed the right metadata tags from the start, you can create enough views for a variety of perspectives to satisfy users.
By the way, several months ago I listened to an excellent podcast by Ann Gentle called Exploring Information Technology. I kept meaning to post about it, but never did. I really enjoyed it, Ann. I hadn't run across your name before. Thanks for linking to me -- that's how I discovered your (non-work) blog.
Just thought I'd throw in a few more wiki resources:
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I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.